Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thankful for Reviewers

With Thanksgiving disappearing along with November, I thought it would be fitting to quickly write about something I'm thankful for: reviewers. I know we authors harp on this all the time, but seriously! Leaving a review is one of the best ways you can say thank you to an author whom you admire. Reviews help the book gain visibility to bestseller lists, promo opportunities, and other readers. The more reviews, the more credibility the book has. Not a perfect system, sure, but it's the one we have.

So if you've reviewed any of my books, thank you!



The Separation just reached its 25th review on Amazon, which -- although small -- is a milestone to celebrate. You help to encourage other readers to pick up the book, and for that, I can't thank you enough! And if, perhaps, you wrote a negative review like this one, I STILL  thank you. Because that review convinced a bunch of people to read my book if only to see if it was really so bad as this woman described. I'd be lying if I said that didn't bring me just the smallest morsel of joy.


Have you read something of mine recently? Like it? Despise it? Either way, leave a review! It only takes a few minutes, and it gives me meaningful feedback. Go on Amazon, Evernight Publishing, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads-- heck, write a blog about it. Tell your neighbors. Write a bill board! Okay, maybe don't do that last one. But you get my point, right?

Love an author? Leave a review. And for those who already do, we salute you. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

How to Support an Author -- Without Even Buying a Book

Okay, so let's be real. We want you to read our books. I have one coming out this month, even. It would be pretty great if somebody read it. But I get it -- books require some disposable income that we don't always have. So if you can't spend on book-buying but you still want to support authors, here are some pointers.

1. Support them on social media
At the risk of sounding like everyone else, social media and marketing are nearly synonymous these days. That being said, following an author on all forms of social media that you have can be not only helpful to the writer, but also really fun for you. You get to keep up with new developments, see giveaways before other people, and sneak a peek into a writer's life. And don't forget, sharing is caring! 

This includes crowdfunding-esque sources like Thunderclap, Daycause, and more. For example, with a new release coming up, I have a Thunderclap that needs 100 supporters; in other words, 100 people need to support the cause by allowing the program to automatically share a message from their chosen social media. Things like this aren't always common knowledge to readers, but most authors know them intimately. Help us out, free of charge! 

2. Leave a review
Let's say you've already read the book. It costs nothing at all for you to take five minutes and leave an honest review. Many people use reviews to help them decide to buy a book. Not to mention, sites like BookBub and others use reviews as an indicator of a book's worth. Right or wrong, we need reviews to survive.

3. Spread the word
Far and away, the best method of marketing is word of mouth. So if you want to support an author, recommend them to your friends. Talk them up to librarians and independent bookstores who may want to order something new. Suggest their books to anyone who asks for something new. 

See? Easy! And not a penny spent. 

One more thing...I know not everyone loves eBooks, but consider this: an eBook copy of one of my books is under five dollars. Less than a trip to the gas station. Less than a movie ticket. And you get to read it for hours and keep it forever. 

Just think about it. Your independent and local authors are worth it. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Literary Ladies: Why I Don't Want an All-Female Lord of the Flies

Okay, so this post is a bit of a rant. It's just that as a woman, as a reader, and as a writer, I have a vested interest in female characters, and I can't keep my mouth shut about it anymore. With all these new female-driven remakes (think Ghostbusters, Lord of the Flies, and other projected projects), I thought it was time to discuss. 

First off, I don't want a remake of old male-driven stories. All that tends to do is create flat characters who aren't authentic because woman was injected into the story to appease the masses. That only adds to the problematic archetypes we're already fighting including...

1. The Super Sexy Lady
I actually became shockingly enraged recently having invest a lot of time into trying to read the book The Magicians. I disliked the book for a variety of reasons, but chief among them was this: every woman was exactly the same, and every woman was nothing more than a voluptuous sexy-pants that didn't really have much more depth than that. Take, for instance, this quote:

"The woman was disarmingly, almost inappropriately pretty--"
And then later: 
"She was pale and thin and unreasonably lovely, with a broad, ridiculously sexy mouth."
But when describing men, we get something like this:
"His stomach was a sizable hump, his hair a crazy gray Einstein half-noggin."

While I don't think any of these descriptions are stellar, I have a clear image of the man. I know what he looks like. The females, on the other hand, are vague images that float away because they are as insubstantial as characters as their descriptions would have you believe.

2. The Fallen Woman
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP WITH THIS. Everyone from Flaubert to Judd Apatow is guilty of this little trope. You create this character who is unattainable, vaguely cold with some sort of mental hang up, and somehow irresistible. In the end, there are two options. A, the woman self-destructs like in Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. Or B -- the option I refer to as the John Green option -- the woman is lusted after by some self-proclaimed pathetic nice-guy loser, and she hurts him (think Love, the Netflix show, Looking for Alaska... the list goes on). Both are predictable. 

3. The Sweetheart
Everybody loves a sweetie, including me! But when that sweet woman has absolutely no personality, it's mind-numbingly boring. And no, I'm not saying that every character must be strong, self-assured and confident. I think a self-conscious female character can be very dynamic. But a lack of personality (cough cough BELLA SWAN cough cough), is something different altogether.

Look, I could go on, but I won't. My point is this: We don't need female-driven remakes like Ghostbusters and Lord of the Flies. We need original, dynamic, complicated female characters that are telling their own stories. We need characters who -- likable or not -- are reflections of real human women. That's what we want. Nothing more.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Confessions of an Awkward Author

So it's come to my attention that we writers tend to have a lot of secrets. I thought that it would be fitting - given I just made my magazine debut in First For Women this month - to confess a few of my own secrets.
I'm mostly a glutton for punishment, but there is a small part of me that hopes you'll be brave and confess your own secrets in the comment section!

1. I struggle with biting off more than I can chew.
--In writing and in life. And it's not that I can't handle all the things I throw myself into (at 110%, top speed, I might add), it's more that I can't handle it when I don't do everything absolutely perfectly. Failure at something I'm new to is a learning experience. Failing at something I thought I was good at usually throws me into a tailspin. 

2. I don't know how to balance humility and promotion.
Probably any business owner/person with their own brand has this problem. I'm not sure how to take credit for the hard work I've put in when I accomplish
 something. I'm not sure how to remain humble and still promote my work. I constantly worry that I'm erring too much on one side or the other.

3. I still fear rejection, every single time.
Even with Evernight -- who has graciously accepted and published everything I sent their way -- I am terrified that my work won't be accepted. And I get rejected all the time. The suspense created waiting for an answer is actually worse than the rejection letters that I get on the regular.

4. I am still learning.
I'm in a writer's group. I'm going to grad school. I will always be learning, no matter how many things I publish. There will always be someone who knows more than me, and that's actually really comforting to me. It means I never have to stop growing.

5. I sacrifice socializing for writing, but not just because I need to meet deadlines.
I also do it because I truly love to write. I also enjoy being by myself. Maybe that doesn't gel with everyone, but I need my me-time. I think everyone should learn how to be comfortable alone before adding anyone else to the equation.

And that's not even all my neuroses! But I felt it was time to air them out, so hear they are. Have your own confessions? Let them out! I'd love to hear them, and the truth will set you free.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Character Coffeehouse - Phoenix

It's that time again... Character Coffeehouse! As a reminder, the rules are simple:
1. Pick a character of your own creation or otherwise
2. Place them in the setting of a coffeehouse
3. Write! But no more than 500 words.

This particular CC for me is eye-opening. Someone who I have struggled empathizing with is becoming a little more human...

“Coffee. Black.”
Phoenix Handler didn’t overuse words. The barista was likely not smart enough to benefit from the extra effort anyway. In any case, language was important to her. The right words could soothe, inspire, or placate. The wrong ones could incite a riot.
It was one of the first lessons her Elder taught her as Matriarch of Genesis. Women saw her as cold, Phoenix knew, but that wasn’t true. Priscilla Handler - leader of the city - simply didn’t have time to make friends. And Phoenix agreed.
“Here.” The barista offered the cup of coffee meekly, refusing to meet Phoenix’s green eyes. She took it briskly, tossing black hair over one shoulder.
Head up. She straightened her back, looking steadily ahead as she located a table. Another lesson she’d learned. When you look like you know what you’re doing, like you’re on a mission of the utmost importance, people will believe you are important. It’s about more than just oozing confidence; you don’t simply expect respect, you demand it.
It certainly had worked so far. From the time she was twelve years old, Phoenix Handler was top of her class, admired by all and feared by nearly as many. She was first pick in her Partnering Ceremony, the highest honor a Youth could be given in Genesis. Some might celebrate that fact, but Phoenix was quite different. Her accomplishments were momentary happinesses before they became motivation to do better, be better.
She was aware that at this point, she wasn’t even competing with the other girls; she was competing with herself.
“A competition that you will never win,” Priscilla had pointed out to her once. It was a rare moment of affection, one that Phoenix quickly dismissed.
“One I’ll never lose, either.”

The memory tugged gently at Phoenix’s heart, and for just a moment, she let herself close her eyes and remember what it felt like to have an Elder. Before anyone could see, though, the black haired beauty of Genesis was leaving the little coffeeshop, green eyes as guarded as ever.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Character Coffeehouse - Luna

Welcome to the Character Coffeehouse! This is a little activity that I do when I need to dig a little deeper into one of my characters. I decided to begin sharing them with you on a semi-regular basis, and I want to invite you to do the same! Pick a character - of your own creation or otherwise - and drop them into the Coffeehouse. What do they order? Who do they see?
Comment your creation below or on my Facebook page, linked here.

As she breezed through the door of the shop, Luna Lephilia didn't even need to think about her order. Latte, double shot, large. It was meant to keep her awake through yet another shift at the Medical Center, so it needed to be strong, but when no one was looking, she knew she'd dump far too much sugar in. By now, it had become routine. 

When she reached the counter, the barista knew her by name, probably due to the fact that Luna had spent the majority of her pay here. Without Carolyn around to care for, there were very few uses for her money these days. 

It wasn't until after she paid for her steaming cup of coffee that Luna realized she had forgotten to eat again. The little voice in her head scolding her for doing this yet again sounded like Eroyn, the way her conscience always did. She guessed it was that way for everyone. You heard the person in your head who you cared for the most. Or maybe the one who cared most for you. 

In her case, it was both. 

She didn't have time to sit and sip the latte the way most people in the cafe were. She wished she could perch in front of the tall windows of the shop and just breathe for a second or two before returning to her hectic life, but that wasn't to be. She wouldn't have been able to stand it, anyway. 

If one thing could be said for a person like Luna, it was that life without stress was no life at all. From a young age she'd learned to equate being busy to being happy, and that stuck. She didn't actually know what she'd do with free time; the idea baffled her. 

So she did what she always did. She shouldered her way through the heavy door, careful not to spill a precious drop of her beverage, and she went to work.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Problematic YA Fiction Relationship

Ahh, young love. The only thing better is fictional young love. I still remember reading about strapping young men with square jaws, mysterious dark sides, and the ability to say just the right thing.

Chances are, if you were an avid reader growing up, you also fantasized multiple times about fictional hotties. And I held those literary loves very close to my heart until very recently when I started to reread some books I used to love.

Instead of falling in love with my past book boyfriends all over again, I discovered 5 types of crappy relationships that we are normalizing in YA lit.

The I-Don't-Deserve-You Relationship
You're just too good for me; I am but a lowly peasant in comparison to your brilliance... Blah blahblah blahblah. Having been a teenager who believed that I was never good enough for the people I was interested in, this absolutely infuriates me.
Why do we glamorize self-doubt? When it is already so hard to love yourself, why do we make it seem attractive to believe yourself inferior?
Exhibit A: Twilight. Bella and Edward's entire relationship was continually in distress because each party truly believed that each didn't deserve the other. This is not love, people. This is infatuation paired with possible mental illness.

The He-Just-Gets-Mad-Sometimes Relationship
I could rant about 50 Shades of Grey here, but nobody wants to see me get that heated so I'll leave it at this: red flags that in real life would hint at a potential abusive relationship are not sexy. It is not attractive to watch your partner lose control of their temper on a regular basis. In reality, it's fear-inducing, not exhilarating. Passion is sexy. Even anger can be an intriguing character trait. Unbridled violence is not.

The Love Triangle.
I get it: people love watching the brave couple navigate the challenges of love. And the forbidden is just that much more thrilling. I love drama in books! But this trope is worn out. Please, please, stop, authors. Challenge your characters. Put them through hell. Make them appreciate their partner. But maybe do it in a different way for once?

The I-Will-Die-Without-You Relationship.
So, yes, we've all been there. There's that one person who took over your world, who - with one look - could knock the breath out of you. Maybe you're still with them. Maybe you're not. That power in a relationship is absolutely intoxicating, and that's the kind of love I want to read about.
When the protagonist suddenly becomes a parasite who is completely dependent on their lover, I lose interest.
Even without the person you love most in the big, wide world, you are still a whole person. You are enough on your own.
Self love is sexier than any obsessive relationship I've ever read. And that's what I want to get from books. Do I enjoy watching characters fall in love? Absolutely. But I want them fall in love with themselves, first and foremost.

 The She's-Just-Complicated Relationship.
I'm looking at you, John Green.
Let's be clear: I love reading characters who make me angry, characters who are an absolute train-wreck. But I don't love when characters fall in love with other characters simply because they are "complicated" and they waste time and effort trying to "fix" or change them.
It's even worse when it actually works and every problematic behavior magically disappears from the power of LOVE.
I have never once seen this actually work on a real relationship.

Long story short... I'm not looking to read picture-perfect relationships in YA lit. That would be mind-numbingly boring. But when I do read problematic relationships, it would be nice if they were portrayed as unhealthy instead of being normalized.
I'm no expert, but I certainly know what I don't want to be in any of the relationships above.

So here's where you come in. What did I miss? Comment any problematic relationships that you've noticed reading!

Until next time...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Your Publishing Questions... Answered!

Hello all! 

So more and more, I'm getting asked questions about my process and the path to getting published. I am more than happy to talk to anybody about getting published, but I thought it would also be good to have a resource here to direct them to. So without any further ado, here are the answers to publishing questions we have all had at one time or another! 

Should I get an agent?

That depends. In this day and age, having an agent is not a one-way ticket to author stardom. In the same way, not having an agent doesn't hurt your chances of being published. Lots of publishers take direct submissions, and even the bigger publishers often have periods where they open up to unsolicited submissions for a limited time. 
If you know for a fact that you absolutely must be published by one of the Big Five (Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster), then yes, you probably should query an agent. If not, then your options are very open, and an agent is not necessary in the least! 

How do I find an agent?

This part takes not only talent, time, and effort, but also luck. When you query an agent (or a publisher, for that matter) you're not only banking on the fact that you've got a fantastic book to sell them, you're also depending on the fact that the book you're selling fits their taste. This is the real challenge. If you're up for that, then here's what you need to do.

1. Find a selection of agents who are open to submissions specific to what you're selling. A good place to start is at Writer's Digest.

2. Send those agents queries. Be respectful if they ask for you to only query one at a time from a certain agency. As a matter of fact, just be respectful to any of their wishes regardless.

3. Wait. This is hard. Frequently, if it's a no from an agent, you'll never hear back. You have to accept this. Sometimes you get lucky and receive some sort of confirmation that they've seen the query, whether they like the manuscript or not.

How do I find a publisher?

Well, as with anything, the name of the game is research. I use a variety of ways to be vigilant for publishers who are open to my genre at any given time. Here are some resources that I love and want to pass on to you:

1. QueryTracker

Not only does QueryTracker list hundreds of publishers alphabetically, it lists whether they are open to unsolicited submissions, what genre they're seeking, and success stories from people who've queried. Oh, and it's FREE!

2. Author's Publish Magazine

This is another free resource. Author's Publish is a periodical that sends out publishers who are open to submissions, free ebooks helping you hone your craft, and articles relevant to writers. They also include direct links to the submissions pages for each publisher.

3. Freedom with Writing

Another free periodical. The only difference between Author's Publish and this one is the fact that Freedom With Writing only sends out jobs for which you will get paid, whether it's blog posts, articles, or full manuscripts.

A word of caution: no matter whom you query, respect their guidelines for submission. If they don't accept simultaneous submissions (when you submit to more than one publisher at a time) then don't do it. It's not just a faux pas; if you start disrespecting publishers, doors will start closing to you. The industry is smaller than you think, and you don't want to hurt your chances with one publisher by snubbing another.

How do I know which publishers are good and which ones aren't?

Talk to the authors. Most of us are super open to hearing from prospective colleagues and other writers. We'll tell you what we think of our publishers. For example, I had a bad relationship with my first publisher, America Star Books (formerly PublishAmerica), and that could be a separate post all on its own. But now, I absolutely adore my publisher (Evernight Publishing). There are plenty of testimonials online-- look for them before you query.

How do I write a good query letter? 

Ahh, the golden question. If we authors knew the perfect answer to this, we would all be millionaires, wouldn't we? The best guidance I can give you is this: look at a bunch, and find the format that works for you. If you'd like to see mine, send me a message or comment below! I'm willing to share. You can read examples of successful letters here. Also, keep in mind that the genre you write (for me, it's fiction -- specifically YA novels) is going to affect your query, so do targeted research.

How do I handle rejection? How much is normal?

No one has a perfect answer. Dealing with rejection is different for everyone. I personally keep all my rejections in a folder, and I read them only on the day I receive them. If there's any constructive criticism in the letter, I definitely consider whether I want to make any corrections or changes based on what they've said. Usually I just read it, shrug, and move on. No biggie.
By the way, as much as getting a rejection letter can make your stomach sink, not getting one is even more likely, and even more unsettling. Prepare for that. Prepare for a lot of that.
And as for "how much is normal," that depends on how much you submit. By nature, most of what you'll receive is rejection; that's okay. You'll survive, I promise.

How long does it take?

This varies for each person. I'm sure there's super lucky genius authors who find their perfect publisher in no time flat, but I'm not one of those people. I signed with the first publisher who'd take me when I was 19, and I regret that. Then, when it was time to submit again, it took me over a year to find and get accepted by Evernight. A full year. So don't get discouraged! All the greats have been rejected multiple times. It's so, so normal.

So that's it. In the interest of not cramming too much into one post, I'll leave it at that. Still questioning? Shoot me an email, comment below, or send a carrier pigeon to my residence. I'll answer your question to the best of my ability, and I just might post it here!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Upon the Receipt of my First Bad Review

So I've been writing a long time. And by a long time, I pretty much mean my entire existence, from the time I could hold a pencil (or more accurately, pen, because pencils are smeary and yucky). My family and teachers and friends all coddled me and gave me the OH MY WORD YOU'RE THE NEXT SHAKESPEARE YOU GLORIOUS CREATURE YOU.

Of course I wasn't.

But I did get pretty used to hearing that I didn't suck, so after releasing two novels, I did have moments of thinking that I was pretty good at this whole writing books thing.

And I still think that I am, despite the emotional wrecking ball of self doubt that all of us face at times. But naturally not everybody is going to think so. I knew this going into writing, but I never had to really experience it.

That is, until last night.

Last night I logged onto Goodreads with the intent to mark some books that I've read. When I got to my dashboard, I noticed that one of my books no longer had the rating it had had before. I decided to investigate.

Lo and behold, there it was, as disturbing as a booger in the pages of a library book: my first bad review. And man was it a doozy.

I had been preparing for this moment my whole life, but my reaction was not what I expected: I burst into laughter.

I laughed and laughed, and then felt sick, and then read it again, considering, and then laughed some more.

And then, I moved on.

Everybody has been sending me well wishes, like somebody I knew died, and that makes this all the more hilarious. I'm over it. In fact, I'm relatively proud of the one-star, sassy, hate review I got this week. It's awesome. I mean, she really didn't like the book. And for some reason, I find this to be absolutely thrilling.

First off, the review comes from a person living in a state that I have literally never actively promoted to. This means that she found the book on her own, and read it (well, most of it. It was so terrible she couldn't finish, according to the review).

Secondly, the girl was angsty. She was so determined that my book was garbage that she took to the internet to warn the world. I set out to write with the intent of evoking strong emotion in my readers.
It looks like I succeeded.

So if you want to read a book that was deemed so terrible it can't be finished, you can look to me for results! She accidentally gave me the best advertisement ever. Now everyone is going to want to know if it's just as bad as she says.

And that requires that they read it.

So thank you, lady in Ocala, for my first bad review. You are awesome, and I owe you.